GROW

How to Overcome the Single Biggest Barrier to Growth

Management, hiring, marketing: None of it matters unless your business has laser-sharp focus.
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I have read, and have written, many articles about what it takes to be successful in business. I have covered the topic of firing yourself, the power of patience, and the need to be consistent.

And while all of these aspects of company building are certainly important, without proper focus, you limit your ability to achieve success.

That may sound overly simple. But as I work with businesses to help overcome their barriers to growth, they often struggle with focus the most. Not just because they don't have proper focus but also because they don't fully grasp what focus means.

Here are some common pitfalls companies and individuals run into when defining focus.

Their Focus is Too Narrow

Focus is often associated with narrowing, so when a company receives feedback from a potential investor or outside consultant that they need to "focus," they think they need to cut or to edit their mission.

I can understand that. When starting my research firm, I was determined to make sure that my company had proper focus, so I only created three services to sell to our customers. Our packaging, marketing, and promotion hinged on delivering these three services perfectly. But as I worked with client companies, I learned that my company had to deliver more of the user feedback solution in order to be competitive and relevant. As a result, I broadened the focus to include any service offering that included talking with customers.

The customer's voice became the litmus test for taking on a new project. If the project intent was to understand and advocate for the customer, it was a valid project to consider. That attitude landed my company on the Inc. 5000 three years in a row.

Their Focus is Too Broad

This is often the trap that an early stage entrepreneur or small company falls into. It's also one of the number one aspects I focus on when I work with companies to help them understand their marketing strategy. An attempt to create a product, service or marketing message that is "for everyone" is a fool's errand that is impossible to execute successfully.

One only has to look at the debacle that is occurring in rolling out the Affordable Healthcare Act website.  The government's attempt fails on many levels of "one size fits all."  It doesn't take into account the many types of visitors of various levels of understanding regarding insurance or technical ability. It would have been far better for the government to execute a staged rollout instead of taking on the entire uninsured population at one time. By focusing more narrowly, the problems could have been identified and re-mediated.

Other People Don't Get It

When building your organization, if everyone you hire and everyone that buys from you knows your focus, it's very easy to measure where and how you have been successful.

Zappos has a simple focus: "delivering happiness."  Everyone inside and outside the company knows that this is their primary focus, and the stories of how far Zappos will go to deliver against this brand promise can be found far and wide.  Zappos has done a great job of creating a focus that is easily described and easily measured internally and externally.

Do you know what your company's true focus is?  If you find that you are hitting a roadblock in your pursuit of success, it might be time to step back to rethink and right-size your focus.

IMAGE: kubina/Flickr
Last updated: Oct 31, 2013




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